Whitehall not troubled

As I predicted (Newsletters passim) Dave Cameron’s ‘Troubled Families’ initiative has been found out. Of all the reports of its failure Chris Cook’s on Newsnight took the biscuit for the way he told it. To paraphrase: Whitehall told local authorities to get out and find specified numbers of ‘troubled families’, promising £3,200 for every one found. And lo, they were all found! Whitehall then promised a further £800 for each troubled family that ‘improved’ – and improvement could mean less truanting, crime or whatever – fewer ‘troubles’. And lo, all were improved! Ker-ching!

This debacle has come to light through a leaked research report – Whitehall wanted it suppressed – that showed little or nothing of value has been achieved. Now that the report is out in the open what is Whitehall’s response? Carry on! The initiative is set to be rolled out to a further 400,000 ‘troubled families’ by 2020, at a cost in excess of £1bn.

Whitehall not troubled… they never let evidence get in the way of a good narrative.

A big dollop of evidence

Those who have read our recent Periodical will know that we – among others – have abundant evidence on how to help people whose lives have fallen off the rails. The methods employed show common sense and humanity, and the costs of helping people plummet by astonishing amounts.

We are putting on a one-day event to describe the practical means employed to help people get their lives back on the rails on November 24th. Come and see for yourself that ignoring Whitehall’s directives and designing services that actually help people saves so much money that the Whitehall cash carrot becomes trivial. There’s the difference: Whitehall bungs out cash and achieves nothing, the Vanguard Method requires no incentives and releases enormous amounts of cash while improving peoples’ lives.

Join us; to make a booking go here.

Or, if you already know about the benefits of working with the Vanguard Method in people-centred services and you want to get started, join our six-month action-learning programme. It teaches the practical steps you need to take. Starts 27th, 28th and 29th September. More information here.

How politicians deal with evidence

The failure to value evidence is not limited to UK politicians. Canadian politicians were sold the dreaded ‘Lean’ and had it rained down on their healthcare system. When the evidence of failure became abundant – apparently it cost $1,511 for every $1 ‘saved’, and I put that in inverted commas as I know these are usually false claims – what did the minister do?

Denied it!

Deliverology still spreading its disease

Sad to report that Michael Barber’s Deliverology, what he describes as the ‘science of delivery’ (LOL) is still being bought by politicians around the world. The young Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, is just one of those duped and, as a consequence, I have been invited to speak via video-link to an audience of Canadians who are having serious misgivings.

Deliverology is not simply a dumb idea; it makes public services worse and drives up their costs, which is why I devoted a whole chapter to it in my 2008 book. But politicians, bless ‘em, are gullible. They buy the idea that all they need to do is issue targets, demand reports and employ a few bullies, then wait for things to improve; would that management were so easy.

Deliverology is a disease.

The Vanguard Method and Beyond Budgeting

I find myself wondering why we haven’t focussed on the problems of budget management before. Everyone working in organisations recognises it as a problem and we know from our work that it is an even bigger problem than people think. To put it at its simplest: budget management doesn’t just consume time and resources and drive game-playing, it actually makes performance worse!

In developing our relationship with the Beyond Budgeting Round Table we are putting on an event to share the work we have done so far and to outline our roadmap towards knowledge-based budgeting. As Deming said: management should be concerned with prediction. Following the redesign of services our clients are able to predict operational performance going forward and that should be the basis for predicting financial performance too. Of all of the things I am involved in this is certainly the most exciting, providing us with the opportunity to learn new things. Who’d have thought it exciting to learn about accounting?

Come and join us on this journey, it will be fun. It’s on November 29th, near Birmingham; more information here.

And a special offer to Newsletter readers: Book by September 16th and you can have a seat for only £95 (plus VAT). It would be good to journey amongst friends. If you work in a service organisation do bring your management accountant along. To take advantage of this offer, please contact Maria: office@vanguardconsult.co.uk

HMRC – always in meltdown

Rarely does a week go by without bad news about service from HMRC. The latest debacle is being caused by ‘going digital’ and, just as with private-sector organisations, shoving high-variety services on-line simply drives up failure demand (focus on cost and costs go up!). While private-sector organisations eventually realise this folly and draw back, for they have the rudder of profit, HMRC ploughs on. Taxpayers have to lump it.

A group of HMRC folk came to our Leaders’ Summit earlier this year. I went to chat to them at their table – they hunt in packs – and one, who behaved like the group’s leader asked: ‘These examples are mostly from financial services, do you have examples from government agencies?’ I reeled off examples of agencies we are working with around the world and finished by saying there has been a group of people working with our method in the Swedish tax office. She turned to her colleagues and said ‘They have a different tax system to ours’. I buttoned my lip, smiled politely and walked away thinking that the Swedes surely would not be concerned to help people pay the right amount at the right time…

Moles in HMRC tell me their managers call me ‘Big Bad John’.

Thanks for reading!

John – big, at least tall, and not so bad.